By Donovan Drake, Media Director
Every so often in the Church-based creative community the topic of “being purposeful” comes up. As you can imagine, the commentary is widely varied but most of the time the conversation centers around the question of what is purpose or what is our purpose. However, many times we are left without a concrete definition. On the surface, at least, it seems that purpose, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What is purposeful worship? What does it look like in practice as both a worshipper and media director? What is God’s plan for true worship? Next week in Part 2, Dustin Loehrs will bring his perspective as Worship Pastor to the discussion.
What is “purposeful worship”?
In the English language, there are some words that can be confusing due to alternate meanings in different contexts. Both purpose and worship are such words. For example: Did you do that on purpose? What is your purpose? Is worship an event you attend or a thing you do? So, it’s no wonder that people have trouble clearly defining purposeful worship. Paraphrasing from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary we get “A meaningful, intentional determination to offer reverence to a divine being or supernatural power.” That’s not a bad start but to truly discover the answer let’s examine God’s Word.
To be purposeful…
In His Word, God makes it abundantly clear that, individually, we have a purpose (Ephesians 2:10, 2 Timothy 1:8-14) and that we are to be intentional with our actions as we pursue that purpose (1 Corinthians 10:31, James 1:19-27, 2 Timothy 3;16-17). Additionally, He makes it clear that we as the church body should be intentionally gathering together to admonish, encourage, teach, sing, pray, break bread and to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 14:16, Colossians 3:16). How, then, does that purpose define our worship?
Noun? Verb? Both? Neither?
Is worship singing or making music to God? Maybe. However, in Genesis 22:5, on his way to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham told his servants “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” In the next verse, he begins building the altar, however, there is nothing about singing or music. Is worship an event you attend in a venue like a “Worship Center”? Old Testament worshippers would show their love through the giving of sacrifices and offerings at a specific place, the Temple. Nowadays, though, we don’t make those kinds of sacrifices anymore and instead focus on several activities such as singing, praying, fellowship, taking communion, and listening to sermons. Even so, if we have sat through a lifetime of worship services and not acted on what we have learned then we have not truly worshipped, we have merely sat through a lifetime of worship services (1 Corinthians 11:26-29). Likewise, in John 4:19-24, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that (21) “…the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (23)” But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” So, what is worship?
In the Greek, worship means “to kiss” or “embrace”. So how can we “embrace” God “in spirit and truth”? Let’s examine Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of …WORSHIP.” So, there is something sacrificial about worship but what exactly does he mean “to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice”? Paul continues in verse 2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Worship is an attitude of change. Worship is when we approach God full of love, reverence and adoration to sacrifice our wants and desires for His. Worship should change the way we think. All the things we partake in on Sunday morning revolve around seeking out God’s will for our lives and it’s not just limited to a Sunday morning worship service. Paul makes an important distinction that we should be “living sacrifices” rather than the one-time-use sacrifices of the Old Testament. When we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, our usefulness is ongoing. Paul goes on to say in verse 6, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Our worship includes making ourselves available to God, not just seeking His will but doing His will.
So, what is purposeful worship? It is the intentional, meaningful determination to seek after God’s will through the sacrificial offering of everything we think we control to be under His guidance. For me as a Media Director that means seeking His will on the projects I spend my time on, the equipment we invest in, and procedures that are put in place. It means working with the worship team and others to insure distraction free services, using backgrounds that project the meanings of what we sing and teach, and stage designs that help communicate the message. Whether it’s the on the worship team, AVL team, greeters, security, or staff, over 100 man-hours are devoted to making just weekend worship services happen. That’s not including all the ABF’s, the kid’s ministry, or any other ministries. Let me ask you, what does your “living sacrifice” look like? How does your purpose change your worship and your worship change your purpose?
In closing, let the words to this great hymn be our prayer for purposeful worship.
Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You
You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray